Broken Road

Over the Memorial Day weekend I went to a barbeque and found myself sitting with some friends of the host. Since I arrived late, they stopped their conversation and welcomed me warmly into the group. I expected them to go back to their conversation once I squeezed in among them with my plate of potato salad and grilled chicken, but to my surprise they wanted to know about me, including how I knew the host.

I don’t like talking about myself, but I set my plate down and explained. Then they asked what I do for a living, so I told them I work at a university. They knew I moved from New York, so they asked me how I like California. When people ask that, I know they expect to hear about snow, but the snow never really bothered me. So I nodded and said the Bronx can be pretty rough. I said “rough” on purpose to give me barbeque cred. It worked. They asked how I like the neighborhood. That’s when things got complicated, since I know the area. I’ve lived in it on and off since 1981 and knew about the Sears store where Safeway currently stands. That threw them a bit.

I’ve been renting my place for a year and a half. So, although I am new, I remember not just Sears but the A&W that used to be down the street and the Oak Room bar, where my father would go for a beer when he came out to California to visit me. That was during my first move to the Golden State. I am also new to the university but taught there for ten years and attended as a graduate student prior to that. I have moved within California more than half-a-dozen times. And I have done all of this without being in the military, although I did get a physical at the Army Induction Center in Oakland at one point in my life, but that’s another blog post.

Let me add that I have complicated my life even more by having a dozen bank accounts, seven email addresses, three search engines, two Twitter accounts, two screenplays, one stage play, a business, and a blog that has expanded to a podcast. Of course, I am happy about the blog, Mittwoch Matinee, and the Blog Pod. To paraphrase a particular, pop culture figure on closets or storage or some such thing, they bring me joy. But they also bring complication. And there’s the rub. At least it was with my neighbors.

Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1.1.2

As I sat there, talking about the streets I’ve lived on and the places I’ve been, I realized it must have sounded crazy to the group. I know it did. One even joked that I must be wanted by Interpol. I didn’t mean to be evasive or vague. It’s just that I have been a rolling stone for most of my life. I have moved from New York to Pennsylvania to California to Maryland to California to Virginia to New York and back to California with frequent stops in between. Sort of like the B train in the Bronx, which is the opposite of a bee line.

Believe it or not, this was an epiphany for me as I sat there staring into my potato salad, especially since I like to believe I live simply with few needs and less clutter. Maybe I do. But the way I got here has been anything but direct, so much so that I wonder if straight lines actually exist (see “You Get Used to It”). Wasn’t that the point of Einstein’s theory, that lines bend, even lines of light? Maybe that’s just my take on relativity. Or my excuse for how I have lived my life.

Questions remain. Is it better to stay or go? Have I been wandering in a spiritual desert à la Moses all this time? Was Shakespeare’s Valentine right in The Two Gentlemen of Verona when he told his friend, Proteus, that “Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits”?

The funny thing is that I played Proteus in college. Unlike him, I have not kept home. I’ve been traveling, and the road has been anything but smooth.

“The Broken Road” performed by Ben Honeycutt

Image credits: feature by Gabe Reuter on Unsplash; washed out road by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash. Seventy-seventh anniversary of the invasion on D-Day. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”


  1. An illumination into why we, perhaps, like each other so much. The odyssey of the Change of Scene, is important to the rebirth of the soul. Adult Earthly moves for Yours truly went from rural Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia, to Newark (Yikes), to New York (two apartments), to southern New Jersey, to New York, to California (which included three changes of address), and finally back to New York City.

    That’s a lot of Please Forward To . . .

    And though the physical aspects of moving become more difficult over time, the opportunities, challenges, failures, successes, and discomfort from anything new cannot be replicated in the lab. You must get off the couch and go someplace else.

    Every more brought about much needed change and much needed energy.

    An ability to listen to the inner self, which does send you signals to DO SOMETHING is important. And no, the grass is not greener.

    It’s just different.

  2. Robert, I really enjoyed this post. Wow! You have had a full plate of experiences and travels.

  3. Robert, I’m not sure that broken roads are any better or worse than unbroken ones.

    Reading the account of your life’s journey, at least from a geographical standpoint, I feel like I may have gotten stuck in the mud back in the 1970’s. I’ve been married to the same woman for 45 years, which happens to be the same number of years I have been going to the same barber – no connection, just coincidence.

    Lived in our first house in Paoli, PA for 11 years, then moved to a larger one for the past 33 years — all 44 of these years in Paoli, and have seen such enormous change in our small town that it seems to almost go back to the horse and buggy days. Raised, educated and launched three children during those busy years.

    One company, FMC Corporation, for 30 years. Then on to teach at Ursinus College for 13 years, now a writer (kind of) for the last six years.

    Three fundamentally different careers, but all in the same geographical location. Kind of nice, I think, but it doesn’t make for particularly interesting barbecue chat, you have me on that score.

    Now cometh the big change later this year — to a retirement community some 15 miles up the road – in another county, no less. Although I look forward to the end of house maintenance (and financial surprises), it will be more than a bit wrenching to leave the house — we are the only family to live here, and it’s been the house that the kids call home.

    But the writing will continue, the marriage will as well (hopefully, since we will be in closer quarters), my friendships will persist, and I’ll be getting my hair cut by Silvio, just as I have since 1975.

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